Several local TDs also made individual submissions to the Constituency Commission by yesterday's deadline, but the most detailed report was handed in by Cavan County Council.
In its submission, the local authority go over the history of the Cavan-Monaghan constituency, first established in 1977. The changes implemented in 2012, which saw 36 electoral divisions moved into Sligo-Leitrim, had their first impact in the 2016 General Election.
Cavan County Council points out that the Constitution states that any breaches of county boundaries are to be avoided, yet the Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan constituency breached the boundary of two counties.
In their submissions, the local authority state that there are concerns that residents of the 36 electoral divisions in West Cavan are being disenfranchised. They say that, if voter turnout is seen as “one indicator of the health of representative democracy”, then the alignment of West Cavan with Sligo -Leitrim damages the democratic process.
The submission states that the 36 EDs that make up the part of Cavan in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency is such a small percentage in the overall that it inevitably leads to a dilution of representation and consideration of issues and that the “unnatural division” is unjust.
“The boundary divided parishes and caused confusion throughout the area. Anecdotal evidence from local residents in the Belturbet area indicates that the 2016 boundary change caused considerable confusion. Some were unsure of where exactly the boundary lay, and did not know which constituency they resided in right up until the last minute,” the local authority document says.
Another reason for the council's objections were that the boundary ran very close to the town, so candidates from both Sligo-Leitrim and Cavan-Monaghan displayed their posters, “leading to a plethora of printed literature all over”.
It went on to say that candidates from Sligo-Leitrim, who had not canvassed in West Cavan before, had a hard time connecting with the local community.
Brexit is identified as creating uncertainty for the country and the borderland area of county Cavan will be particularly affected by the coming change. “Brexit is likely to further hamper a region that is already insecure in terms of social and economic development,” reads the council submission.
The report also says that the decision to split West Cavan from Cavan-Monaghan was made without due consideration to the community of West Cavan and gave priority to the Leitrim population.
The Council report states: “People in local communities have a shared sense of identity and there is a huge affinity to the county boundary. The county boundary is the basis for local authority services and those provided by other State bodies. Sporting organisations are also frequently organised on county boundaries.”
The reports concludes by saying: “In summary, elected members of Cavan County Council are representing the voice of their constituents in calling for a new revision to the constituency boundary as it affects County Cavan. This proposal to reunite Cavan has the backing of all of the local TDs and the Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council Fergal Curtin (FF) on behalf of the local authority.”
Having spearheaded the Reunite Cavan campaign, The Anglo-Celt collected over 4,500 individual signatures in a petition.
The Celt editor, Linda O'Reilly, outlined considerations such as the isolation of many West Cavan voters from their elected representatives, the digital divide that further discriminates rural dwellers, the general disenfranchisement of voters and the inefficiency of having the county split from a point of view of local government, health, policing etc.
In her submission Deputy Niamh Smyth (FF) said that citizens of Cavan experienced "worry, concern and annoyance at their disenfranchisement by the boundary commissions". Deputy Smyth suggested that people were alienated by their removal from the representation of their native county "without consultation or choice".
She says that the influential work of councillors has been "undermined". Deputy Smyth's submission stated: "The re-unification of Cavan for the Dáil proposed is vital for the future economic and social development of the county."
Senator Joe O'Reilly pointed out that Cavan's population has grown by 3.7% and Monaghan's by 3%. He said that West Cavan is separated by 100km from Sligo town, which is the focal point of the Sligo-Leitrim constituency.
Senator O'Reilly said: "People in west Cavan feel disconnected from the new constituency. West Cavan is already disadvantaged and is now in a weaker situation in social and economic terms. Party organisation in West Cavan are deteriorating due to peripherality and lack of personal connections."
He also pointed out that West Cavan is governed by Cavan County Council, yet is not represented by the local TDs. He concluded by saying: "The county structure is very deeply embedded for cultural social and economic activity. It is the same for political purposes."
Cllr John Paul Feeley asked the Commission to urgently reunite County Cavan. He said that the current arrangement created a barrier between the electorate and those who represent them in Dáil Éireann: "There is no natural relationship between those who live in County Cavan who vote in Sligo-Leitrim and the rest of the constituency."
He said that the Sligo-Leitrim constituency had no regard for the sense of identity of its residents and that none of the State agencies operate boundaries coterminous to those of Sligo Leitrim constituency. Cllr Feeley concluded by saying that the sundering of Cavan had a negative impact on the county.
Deputy Eamon Scanlon submitted a proposal that suggested that Sligo-Leitrim should be a four seat constituency, Cavan-Monaghan be a five seater and Donegal be two three seat constituencies.
Deputy Marc MacSharry stated that the existing constituency incorporating Sligo, Leitrim, South Donegal and West Cavan "serves to exacerbate the alienation of rural Ireland and undermines the constitutional entitlement of equal representation of all citizens in a practical, workable and cohesive way in Dáil Éireann".
The deputy’s detailed submission also suggested that the current arrangements are contrary to the literal and spirit of the terms of reference of the Constituency Commission public notice where it states that ‘breaching of county boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable’ and that the last redraw saw county boundaries "recklessly dissected rather than proactively and thoughtfully maintained".
Deputy MacSharry said that despite the intention of all representatives to do their best to provide effective representation the "sprawling and haphazard" make up of the arrangements in Sligo Leitrim West Cavan & South Donegal undermined the effective representation.
In his submission David Cahill requested that Sligo-Leitrim become a three seater and West Cavan return to Cavan-Monaghan, which would be a five seater. He said that local identity is diluted in a four-county constituency that only accommodates part of two counties. He goes on to say that visits by IDA Ireland to counties Cavan and Monaghan in 2015 and 2016 have been extraordinarily low and that this is a reflection of the disconnect of the elected representatives of West Cavan.
At the time of going to print, the Celt is aware that further detailed submissions were to be lodged by Deputies Brendan Smith (FF) and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (SF) and the Cavan Monaghan ETB, which will be available on the commission's website shortly.